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Online Extra: Political Notes: Voters retain gay, lesbian CA appellate judges

by Matthew S. Bajko

California Appeal Court Justice James M. Humes easily won another term when voters decided to retain him in Tuesday's election. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland
California Appeal Court Justice James M. Humes easily won another term when voters decided to retain him in Tuesday's election. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland  

Voters retained two California Supreme Court justices and all of the appellate court justices on the November 6 ballot, including three out appeal court members.

One of the trio could become the first out LGBT community member to serve on the state's highest court, which currently has a vacancy. Outgoing Governor Jerry Brown has left the seat open for a year, raising questions on if he will name a successor to former Justice Kathryn Werdigar before he leaves office in January.

Governor-elect Gavin Newsom, currently the state's lieutenant governor, told reporters at a news conference Thursday in San Francisco while filling in for Brown, as he was out of the state, that Brown still has time to nominate someone to the court seat "unless he wants to leave it to me, which I'm happy to consider."

Speculation has centered on Brown possibly nominating gay San Francisco resident James M. Humes, the first openly gay justice to be appointed to the California Court of Appeal. Brown appointed Humes to the First District in 2012; in June, Humes became the appeal court's administrative presiding justice.

Humes had worked for Brown as his gubernatorial executive secretary and earlier as his chief deputy in the attorney general's office. He received nearly 76 percent of the vote in his retention race, according to the unofficial returns Friday.

Voters in the Second District Court of Appeal retained Appellate Justice Luis A. Lavin, as he received 71 percent of the vote. In 2015, he became his court's first openly gay justice when Brown named him to its Division Three. The Second District serves Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo counties.

And voters in the Fourth District Court of Appeal retained Marsha G. Slough, an out lesbian who is the first LGBT member of her appellate court. She received nearly 67 percent of the vote. Brown in 2015 appointed her to a Division Two seat on the court, which serves the southern California counties San Diego, Imperial, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside, and Inyo.

All 50 appellate court justices who were up for retention votes this year won voters' approval to serve 12-year terms. They only appeared on the ballots in the counties covered by their appeal courts.

Supreme Court Associate Justices Carol Corrigan and Leondra R. Kruger both won their statewide retention races. Corrigan garnered 71.4 percent of the vote, while Kruger received 71.6 percent.

While the judicial retention races had largely flown under the radar, Corrigan had faced an attempt by LGBT advocates to knock her off the bench due to her dissent in the 4-3 majority opinion in 2008 that struck down the state's laws banning same-sex marriage.

While she had stated in her opinion that gay and lesbian couples should be able to call their unions marriages, Corrigan wrote that it should not be up to the court but the voters to decide if those marriages should come with legal recognition.

The voters did just that in November 2008, adopting by a slim margin Proposition 8, which overruled the state Supreme Court's decision and banned same-sex marriage in California. When LGBT legal advocates sued to overturn Prop 8, Corrigan voted with the 6-1 majority in upholding the validity of Prop 8 in a 2009 opinion while also ruling that the marriages of those same-sex couples that occurred prior to its passage were valid.

(It would take the federal courts to decide years later that the anti-LGBT ballot measure was unconstitutional in June 2013.)

Another issue opponents of Corrigan raised was the persistent claims that she is a lesbian, and thus, betrayed her own community with her decisions in the marriage cases. Yet Corrigan has never publicly identified as being part of the LGBT community.

As the B.A.R. has noted in stories since 2012 about the demographic makeup of the state's judiciary, based on reports that now include data on LGBT judges, all of the sitting Supreme Court justices have identified as heterosexual since being asked about their sexual orientation and gender identity.

According to the unofficial returns Friday, Corrigan swept all 58 counties in the state. Her weakest showing — percentage-wise — came in Mendocino County, where she received 62.8 percent of the vote. In San Francisco County, she received 65.5 percent of the vote.

Kruger, on the other hand, captured a majority of yes votes in all but one of the state's counties. She received a majority of no votes — 3,500 against and 3,308 for — in Lassen County.

Lesbian loses San Diego supe bid
In San Diego, Republican Bonnie Dumanis, a lesbian and former district attorney, lost her bid for the open District 4 seat on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.

Former state lawmaker Nathan Fletcher, who left the GOP for the Democratic Party, won the race. According to the unofficial returns Friday, Fletcher received more than 65 percent of the vote. He was one of two Democrats to win seats on the board, which currently has all Republican supervisors.

"Your support catapulted us to a tremendous victory," he wrote to supporters Thursday, adding that he was "honored to once again have the privilege of waking up everyday with a single focus on improving the lives of others."

Lesbian Dr. Jennifer Campbell defeated her GOP opponent, incumbent Lorie Zapf, to win the District 2 San Diego City Council seat with 56 percent of the vote. She will join a new supermajority of Democratic council members, 6-3, who will have the power to override vetoes by Republican Mayor Kevin Faulconer.

Her election also marks the first time the San Diego City Council will have three LGBT community leaders on it. Campbell will serve alongside queer District 9 City Councilwoman Georgette Gomez and gay District 3 City Councilman Chris Ward.

Gay educator Kevin Beiser easily won re-election to his seat on the San Diego Unified School District board, on which he is currently serving as president. Gina Roberts, a transgender woman who is president of the San Diego chapter of Log Cabin Republicans, the LGBT GOP group, lost her second bid for a seat on the Valley Center Pauma Unified School District board against appointed incumbent Mike Adams.

Keep abreast of the latest LGBT political news by following the Political Notebook on Twitter @ http://twitter.com/politicalnotes . The column will be on a holiday break and return December 3.

Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail m.bajko@ebar.com.

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